“My Darling is a Foreigner” Manga disrespected in Ayase

I came across this depressingly soggy ex-manga on the road near my apartment:



This was a volume in the ダーリンは外国人 series (Literally translates as My Darling is a Foreigner but has been sold in English translation under the godawful title Is He Turning Japanese? Out of basic respect for human dignity I will use the literal translation in this post).

Whoever left this must really have not liked what they read since it looks like they took the effort of tearing the the binding apart into three pieces before leaving it to rot. I’ve read the first two volumes (one of Mrs. Adamu’s friends gave them to us as a gift appropriate for our situation), and while they weren’t my favorite they don’t deserve this level of disrespect.

But I always believe that when life gives you soggy manga on the street, you use that opportunity to write a review of that manga in the hope that something constructive can come out of such a senseless waste:

Adamu’s thoughts on My Darling is  Foreigner

The series, a semi-autobiographical episodic story of the daily life of the author, a Japanese woman with no international experience or English ability,  and her quirky, multilingual American husband, was a surprise hit in Japan. According to an undated article at the Hiragana Times, the first volume has had at least 28 print runs since the first edition hit bookshelves in 2002.

I might expect too much from a manga that wears its light-heartedness on its sleeve, but this title was a letdown when I read it a few years back. As a manga it is very well-drawn (I was especially impressed with the detailed closeups of Tony’s face), but the depiction of main character Tony (pictured above) leans too heavily toward a two-dimensional “Hello Kitty” caricature, someone who hasn’t got a personality so much as a list of quirky but endearing distinguishing traits (extremely obsessed with learning languages, generally kind-hearted but won’t change his mind once he’s settled on a decision, doesn’t like to be told how to wash the dishes out of a sense of respect for individuality, has deep-set eyes).

While Darling was basically very well-received by a public that’s used to being entertained by exotic-looking foreigners who love Japan and can speak their language, the manga was not without its detractors. Critical Amazon commenters, many of whom claimed to be in international relationships and to have received the manga from well-meaning friends, seemed turned off by the superficial observations and general dullness of confusing the routine aspects of married life with a deep commentary on international marriage just because the husband has a white face and commutes to Starbucks. Some speculated that the author’s lack of English ability and experience abroad led her to concentrate on the superficial aspects of Tony and fall short of all but the most amateurish insights. Interestingly, some pointed out that Tony seems far more integrated with Japanese society than your typical foreigner, while others got the impression that he’s just a miser who couldn’t fit in back home.

I felt a little disappointed to see a person reduced to such simplicity in the name of keepin’ it honobono, especially since the title implies he represents “foreigners.”  And I want to emphasize that Tony is in no way typical of the American population here. Some of Tony’s quirks – as seen in episodes where he badgers a pizza place into letting him use expired coupons and demands a waiter give them wine free of charge since he didn’t like how it tasted – are downright abrasive and share more in common with the stereotypical obatarian than an American man, let alone “foreigners,” which as a term is far too broad (though it fits in with the Japanese connotation of gaikokujin to mean a white Westerner first and foremost). More than any of that, however, I found it hard to stay interested in want of any compelling characters or really any story elements more complicated than your typical episode of Sazae-san.

Still I don’t see any reason to disrespect a perfectly good manga, especially when there is a used book store just a few hundred meters away.

Continue reading “My Darling is a Foreigner” Manga disrespected in Ayase

Read (part of) the unofficial final volume of Doraemon that the MAN doesn’t want you to see!

Doraemon fans: In you’re like me and missed this scandal back in 2007, take a look at this Flash sample of the dojinshi “final volume” of Doraemon that was suppressed by publisher Shogakukan for basically becoming too popular. This is just a sample, but the early pages promise much intrigue – Doraemon’s battery dies when Nobita is still a boy, so he vows to bring his best friend back to life by becoming the world’s premiere robotics engineer.

Here is a video of a 2007 Japanese news story describing the scandal.

According to Wikipedia, Japan’s copyright laws, based on a 1997 Supreme Court case, hold that while there is no copyright on a manga character, depicting those characters in a specific manga without permission would constitute a copyright violation. Usually, the publishers do not take action against dojinshi publishers because they are a valuable way for fans to get the most out of their favorite characters, and they serve as practice to develop the next generation of artists. However, this case “crossed a line” –  Shogakukan and Fujiko Productions were apparently worried that giving readers the impression that the Doraemon series is over would dampen interest in future movies or other derivative ventures. They demanded that the man cease selling the manga and give them whatever money he made from it, demands which the author agreed to. Tragically, it appears that he gave up drawing manga entirely following the scandal.

(h/t to Aceface for the links)

Women flee Japan, as the men evolve into a different species

Of course, the female population could simply be falling more or less in line with the overall population, but let’s not let that get in the way of an anonymous ministry official’s speculation (thank you Kyodo and Nikkei):

Population Of Women In Japan Sees 1st Decline On Record
TOKYO (Kyodo)–The number of females in Japan fell for the first time on record as of October last year, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Monday.

The female population was estimated to be 65.44 million as of Oct. 1, down 20,000 from a year earlier to mark the first decrease since 1950, when comparable data were first recorded.

”More Japanese women are going abroad for extended periods, and this is thought to be one of the reasons,” a ministry official said.

This might be a good time to tell you that I very much enjoyed attending Patrick Macias’ lecture on otaku culture held a couple weeks ago at Temple University Japan. You can listen to it in full on his website. The lecture is a broad overview of the development of Japan’s otaku culture and the American obsession with it. Within, he notes:

  • Densha Otoko, the dubiously true story of an 2-Channeler otaku who falls in love with a normal woman, follows the storyline of an “interracial romance,” and
  • The ubiquity of erotic elements in anime and gaming indicate that otaku are leaving normal female companionship behind, in a phenomenon he compares to the “post-humans” of sci-fi anime such as the Gundam series.

It’s an interesting listen!

Oh hell yeah

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I don’t know who had the insane idea to make a Japanese live-action version of Spiderman, but I’m just glad that it exists. And glad that Marvel has, for some reason, decided to stream episodes for free on their web site. There’s also a very odd Spiderman manga I’ve read a bit of, which may or may not be based on the plot of this show.

The origins of Nanaca Crash

One of our more popular posts continues to be Roy’s link back in 2005 to addictive flash game “Nanaca Crash” in which you try to control how far a young man bounces after being run into by an anime Japanese schoolgirl on a bicycle. Give it a try!

Four years later, I am only now learning of the game’s hentai origins:

Cross Channel (officially spelled CROSS†CHANNEL) is an eroge for the Windows and PlayStation 2 platforms. The Windows version was released on September 26, 2003, and the PS2 version (CROSS†CHANNEL~to all people~) on March 18, 2004.


Gunjo Gakuen (Deep Blue School) is a facility designed to gather and isolate those students who got a high score on an adaptation exam (Scoring high on this exam indicates that the student is less likely to be able to be adapted to the society) mandated by the government.

After a failed summer vacation with other members of the school’s broadcasting club, Taichi Kurosu and some of the other club members return to the city, only to find that all living creatures within it except for the club members have completely vanished. In order to confirm the status of the outside world, Taichi decides to gather other club members to help Misato Miyasumi, the president of the broadcasting club, who is trying to set up a broadcasting antenna to contact any possible survivors. However, Taichi soon discovers that the world is actually repeating the week after they found the others vanished…

Nanaca Crash!! (officially spelled NANACA†CRASH!!) is an online spin off game featuring characters from Cross Channel. The object of the game is to click, hold and release the mouse button to determine the angle and velocity of Nanaka crashing her bicycle towards Taichi, sending him flying across the screen. Your score is determined by the distance of his flight. Certain characters he crashes into will greatly affect his velocity.

“War and Japan: The Non-Fiction Manga of Mizuki Shigeru”

The web journal Japan Focus just published a translation of one of Mizuki Shigeru’s short manga pieces, entitled “War and Japan“, with a brief introduction to the man and his work written by Matthew Penney. One of the most famous and important manga authors in Japan, Mizuki Shigeru remains surprisingly obscure abroad, even among ardent manga fans. English translations of his most popular work may exist, but I have never even seen any. As Penney’s profile of Mizuki Shigeru (who, incidentally, is still alive at the age of 86-over 60 years since losing his arm to an explosion on a south Pacific island in WW2) makes a point of saying, “Mizuki, who unlike most prominent revisionists actually experienced the horrors of war firsthand, sees no contradiction between a love for Japan and its traditions, and a willingness to look honestly at the nation’s war history.”

Mizuki is in fact best known for his work involving Japanese folk spirits (or faeries or hobgoblins or monsters- the Japanese term youkai is a bit hard to translate directly), which despite having a generally comic tone do also occasionally deal with the horrors of war, and also received much acclaim for his truly excellent 8 volume Showa-shi (History of the Showa Period), in which he uses pages of pure historical explanation (all in manga form, of course) to frame the primary narative of his own life throughout the entire Showa period, which began around the time of his birth and ended as he was approaching pensioner age. Although covering the entire 62 years of the Showa period, Showa-shi focuses most heavily on his childhood, when he developed his lifelong fascination with youkai and folktales, and on the WW2 period, when he was the sole survivor of a bombing attack in the South Pacific island of Rabaul, lost his arm, and after the war’s end very nearly stayed behind in the native village that had nursed him back to health.

Showa-shi may be considered the capstone of Mizuki’s career. It is not his last work, but does form a synthesis of themes from throughout his entire career. Although it is his youkai manga that he is mainly known for, he had actually spent a chunk of his early career writing WW2 comics for the rental manga market, which at that time was a market publishing original material.

As it so happens, just last week I picked up one volume of a newly published series which reprints Mizuki Shigeru’s war stories for, I believe, the first time. Japanese books can have maddeningly scant publication history, however, so in fact the copyright page says only that this volume was first published in 2008, without specifying in detail the publication history, or even clearly labelling the original year of publication! Despite this annoying flaw, the book is great stuff. Labelled “comics for thinking about war and peace”, this particular volume is his stories of the air war. Much of the art bears little resemblance to Mizuki’s trademark style, instead opting for a sketchy grim style, particularly for the chaotic air combat scenes.

I haven’t yet had a chance to do more then flip through, although i did just read the first story -“Cockroach”, in which a Zero pilot named Yamamoto is shot down, captured by the Allies, kills a guard almost accidentally and then escapes only to discover upon his return that Japan had surrendered. He is arrested as a war criminal, without really understanding why, escapes from the jail in Japan, and then is finally executed-the last to be executed as a war criminal by the Allied military. In the final panel, as his weeping mother is handed a wooden box containing his ashes, she cries “my son’s entire life was just like that of a cockroach running about and hopelessly trying to escape.” Although the story is clearly anti-war, the ambivalence towards the war crime trials and criticism of winner’s justice presents a viewpoint difficult to sum up in the simplistic left/right paradigm that is all too often employed when discussing Japanese views of World War II.